Greenberg Quinlan Rosner / Democracy Corps
Democracy Corps


Executive Summary

As Barack Obama presses his lead over John McCain in national surveys, the support and enthusiasm he enjoys among younger voters reaches new levels. More important, as the outcome of their choice was never really in doubt, young people enter the final stretch with an invigorated commitment to turn out to vote and increased participation in the campaign itself.

Unfortunately, not all of this energy finds its way down ballot. A significant number of young people who say they will turn out to vote in the Presidential election and then go home without completing the ballot. Given both the margin and the likely turn out, addressing this problem may be the most important work left for progressives among young people leading into the election

Key Findings

  • Obama has never posted a higher margin among young people (now 63 - 28 percent Obama), has never generated higher favorable ratings among young people and John McCain has never been less popular among young people.
  • In tracking young people’s commitment to vote, we have never seen a higher percentage of young people describing themselves as “very likely” to vote.
  • Young people are also more likely to participate directly in the campaign in other ways as well, particularly on-line, as this survey shows more trading of campaign spots, more “friending” of candidates on social network sites and more reading and writing of blogs. More than one in four say they will volunteer on Election Day turning out the vote. While this number is likely overstated, it is evidence of their commitment to this election.
  • However, one in five voters say they will only vote for President. Among young people of color, the number is even higher. Effective messaging to curb down-ballot drop-off focuses on building a “team” for Obama, but more important, addressed the current crisis in the country. Young people believe the nation is in deep trouble and channeling their anger, their concern and their fear into politics.


This population is exceptionally difficult to reach through traditional polling methods. More important, traditional polling methods are no longer a reliable way of understanding America’s young people. More than a quarter of young people do not have conventional land-line phones and many (63 percent in this survey) among those that have land-lines do not use them as their main service for in-coming calls. This means that most will not be reached with a land-line phone survey. Therefore, this project involves a multi-modal approach using web-based interviewing, cell phone interviewing, as well as a land-line sample. Moreover, as turn out represents such a critical variable in the political disposition of young people, this project does not screen for likely voters. Between September 29 and October 13, 2008, Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research interviewed 600 young people, ages 18-29. This project looks at the wider population of young people and does not exclude non-voters or unlikely voters. As this population is very difficult to survey, this project involved a multi-mode design including cell phone interviewing (90 interviews), web based research (450 interviews) and telephone surveys (360 interviews) using a random digit dial sample.